Horry County school board Chair Joe DeFeo was laid to rest Wednesday.
DeFeo, 65, died suddenly last Thursday after a cardiac event. He was in his second term as a board chair and was devoted to his job.
He was memorialized during his funeral at Trinity Anglican Church in Myrtle Beach.
"No one he interacted with was too small," said his daughter Megan DeFeo. "One day, when I was teaching in Horry County, I saw a letter on a table. It looked like it was written by a middle schooler. I said ‘What’s that?’ Apparently sometimes people would write him. I said ‘What do you do if you get a letter?’ He said ‘I call them back.’ That’s how he was. Everybody had his cell phone number."
DeFeo would spend his days doing board work, answering emails and phone calls from concerned parents and teachers.
At a recent panel discussion on the school-to-prison pipeline concept, DeFeo took questions and told some attendees to talk with him after the discussion about various situations.
He was first elected to the school board in 2006.
"People were urging me to run so I ran," DeFeo said in an interview about a month before his death. "I just think our youth is our future, so I stayed in the school board."
He was elected chair in 2012, and wasn't afraid to speak his mind, even if not everyone agreed with him.
"He wasn’t nervous to tell you what he thought," his daughter said. "I think that he respected people and understood that people have souls."
Privately, DeFeo was a fan of music. He enjoyed singing and playing guitar, and much of his charity work involved music
"He loved music, all types of music," said his daughter.
He donated money to the Carolina Forest High School theater and gave lots of music equipment to the youth choir at his church. The Carolina Forest High School Chamber Orchestra and choir performed several religious tunes during his service.
Megan called her father a "good Christian man," and said a song called "The Face of Love" always reminded her of him.
"I wanted to read to you a quote from that song that I think exemplifies his character," she said. "It says ‘And you are the face of love that changed the world, no one too lost for you to love, no one too low for you to serve, so give use the grace to change the world, no one too lost for you to love, no one too low for you to serve.'"
"And that was my dad."
DeFeo is survived by his fiancee Sandra Lucas-Hyde, his son Joseph DeFeo III, and his daughters Megan DeFeo and Susannah DeFeo.
Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian